In the news
Manufactured scandal, Wikipedia assignments, and more
WorldNetDaily reporter ordered Obama edits
Last week the Wikipedia Signpost noted a story by Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily, in which Klein reported that edits to the article Barack Obama and several other articles were being reverted to keep out "missing" material about Obama-related controversies such as the Bill Ayers presidential election controversy and citizenship conspiracy theories. Klein is an American author, a Middle East correspondent, head of the Jerusalem bureau for WorldNetDaily, and a columnist for The Jewish Press. Several mainstream media outlets subsequently picked up the story, including The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and Fox News.
Subsequent analysis and investigation, beginning with a story from ConWebBlog, resulted in Klein's admission that the user making the reverted edits, Jerusalem21 (whose only other edits were to Klein's own article), was his research assistant and made the edits on his instructions.
Composition professor uses Wikipedia to teach writing
Robert E. Cummings, an assistant professor of English and director of the First-Year Composition Program at Columbus State University, praises Wikipedia as "a more authentic, immediate audience for student writing" in a column in Inside Higher Ed. In "Are We Ready to Use Wikipedia to Teach Writing?", Cummings explains how he has successfully used Wikipedia assignments in his composition courses to teach students how to write with an audience in mind that consists of more than merely the professor. He also claims that "in the years of teaching with Wikipedia I have found almost no difference in the range of opinions about Wikipedia held by student writers and those held by their - mostly - older teachers" and that he has found "roughly the same number of enthusiastic adopters among teachers and students." Many students with negative views of Wikipedia, he notes, had previously been penalized for using it.
Cummings is the author of a new book about Wikipedia assignments and related teaching issues, Lazy Virtues: Teaching Writing in the Age of Wikipedia, due out this month from Vanderbilt University Press. Look for a review of this book by one or more Wikipedians in an upcoming edition of the Signpost.
Ecology students assigned to edit
Conservation Magazine reports that University of Florida graduate students in a course on plant-animal interactions were assigned to edit a range of ecology-related Wikipedia articles. The students themselves describe the experience in an upcoming article in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, "Improving Wikipedia: educational opportunity and professional responsibility".
Law scholars analyze Wikipedia's dispute resolution system
Temple University law scholars David A. Hoffman and Salil Mehra have released a draft of a paper that explores English Wikipedia's dispute resolution system as a key factor in the project's effectiveness. In "Wikitruth through Wikiorder", Hoffman and Mehra present both qualitative and quantitative assessments of the formal and informal elements of dispute resolution on Wikipedia, including a statistical analysis of 250 arbitration cases. They characterize the formal dispute resolution system (particularly arbitration) as, paradoxically, a system that does not resolve disputes. Rather, since Wikipedia is largely driven by (civil) disputes over article content, the arbitration system serves to "weed out" editors who do not abide by the community's standards of behavior while it "weeds back in" problematic editors who nevertheless demonstrate a commitment to article content. Using game theory, they argue that channeling difficult users back into the community can be modeled by the game of Chicken.
Hoffman describes the origins of the study in a recent blog post, which also includes a flowchart of Wikipedia dispute resolution in which every other processing step reads "Shower them with Wikilove".
UK government plagiarizes Wikipedia in telecom bill amendment, says grad student
According to Monica Horten, a PhD student at the Communications and Media Research Institute of the University of Westminster
, part of a newly introduced amendment to the "Telecoms Package" being considered by the European Parliament
was cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia.
, now using Wikipedia as part of their marketing campaign
on her website IpTegrity.com that the UK government introduced an amendment that "seek[s] to cross out users' rights to access and distribute Internet content and services", and the language in the amendment was taken in part from the Wikipedia article bandwidth management
Skittles' Web 2.0 experiment goes awry
The Signpost previously reported on the recently overhauled website for the confectionary brand Skittles, which uses only Twitter feeds, Wikipedia articles, and other "Web 2.0" content. PRWeek reported last week that abusive comments by Twitter users have prompted Skittles to use the Wikipedia article for the home page, rather than Twitter. However, both the "discussion" and "edit" tabs are obscured by the Skittles branding.
The website has since changed again, with YouTube content now used as the default.